Friday, July 16, 2010

Archaeology and Hype

Is Holy Land Archaeology Being Hyped by Politics?  The answer is yes, according to this article by Matthew Kalman.  But if your major sources are Jim West and Meir Ben-Dov, this is an entirely predictable, but not necessarily accurate, conclusion.

Is archaeology hyped?  Sometimes it is.  But is the cause politics or something else?  Does the problem lie with archaeologists or with someone else?

Everybody wants a sensational story.  The public doesn’t want to read about a clay tablet, they want to hear about the oldest inscription ever found in Jerusalem.  Journalists and their publishers want stories that sell.  Archaeologists are typically tireless workers who often lack necessary funding and sometimes may stretch the significance of their discovery for personal or professional reasons.  In my observation, archaeologists in Israel generally present their work in an appropriate way that doesn’t overstate the evidence.  Sometimes the media spins things to boost pageviews, such as one headline on this story that makes this latest discovery the “oldest document found in Israel.”  That’s not true, and it’s not what the archaeologists reported. 

I have been concerned in the past with some claims.  Usually I find fault because the sensational conclusion is announced prematurely.  Eilat Mazar found the palace of David in her first season of excavations in the area.  If this claim was made after five years of careful investigation and discussion with colleagues, I would be less inclined to view it as a fundraising device.  Shimon Gibson announced his discovery of the “Cave of John the Baptist” at the same time that his book was released, but I don’t know of any archaeologists who find his evidence compelling.  Rami Arav is very outspoken about his excavations at the New Testament city of Bethsaida, but his impressive finds are from an Iron Age city of the kingdom of Gesher, and there is very little that he has excavated which supports the Bethsaida identification.

Are there problems with archaeologists hyping archaeological discoveries?  Yes.  Are they systemic and primarily motivated by politics?  I hardly think so.

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7 Comments:

  • Good post. Level-headed its ironic that these guys play the politics card when they so clearly have their own dog in the fight - outright hypocrisy.

    By Blogger Chris McKinny, at Fri Jul 16, 10:42:00 AM  

  • i think chris might want to look in the mirror if he's seeking irony. there's nothing hypocritical in pointing out the obvious. what chris and the rest of the christian zionists (you too todd) fail to understand is that truth isn't determined by mere supposition and unsubstantiated claim.

    the real hypocrites in all this, chris, are the people who imagine, for whatever reason, that israel has a claim to land they are simply dispossessing people of under the guise of some faint historical claim supported by falsified archaeology.

    and todd if you dont like the fact that kalman contacted me and asked questions, why dont you write him and complain instead of acting like hes a moron because he did. you may not care for me or my views (neither of which matters to me since if i wanted to be popular i'd be irrelevant like so many bloggers) but its a tad obnoxious of you to suggest, via your not so thinly veiled innuendo, that kalman did a bad job of it.

    By Blogger Jim, at Fri Jul 16, 12:34:00 PM  

  • I see that Jim West is now touting himself around as, and thereby being quoted as, a "scholar." The truth is, as everybody knows, Jim only has a mail-order "doctorate" from a degree mill. His scholarly qualifications in archaeology are ZERO.

    By Blogger Dr. Evangelicus, at Fri Jul 16, 04:33:00 PM  

  • "...the guise of some faint historical claim supported by falsified archaeology."

    So according to objective, scientific scholarship, the Jews were originally from ... Australia? Japan? Greenland? Tennessee?

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Sat Jul 17, 10:31:00 AM  

  • Jim,

    Just because something is obvious to you does not mean it's obvious to everyone else. Certainly, there are cases of Israeli archaeologists looking for their heritage and even ignoring the Palestinians' heritage for political reasons, but to lay a blanket claim of guilt across the entire field of Israeli archaeology and the City of David excavations in particular is laughable. Moreover, I am not quite sure how a cuneiform tablet pre-David provides Israeli archaeologists with more historic right fodder.

    It's quite humorous that you can assume so much about a person by reading two sentences. Your comment labeled me as a "Christian Zionist" and implied that me along with all my "Christian Zionist" pals are all for the dispossession of Palestinians. That's quite a jump from what I wrote.

    I agree that way too much is made of Israel's biblical ties to the land provide modern claims for 20th century Jews, but that does not mean Jews do not have a right to the land.

    Whether you like it or not Israel does have a historic claim to the land, one much more recent than the Abrahamic covenant - namely the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the U.N. 1947 decision for partition, and the DEFENSIVE wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973. Never in the history of the world has a nation been given more grief and called "occupiers" when they themselves were the ones attacked. These are historically substantiated facts not mere supposition if 'ol Abe and Yahweh getting together weren't enough.

    Should the Holocaust survivors arriving on the land given to them by the United Nations simply turned around and drowned themselves in the sea or perhaps allowed the Egyptian tanks to run them over as they on their way to ransacking Tel Aviv?

    It's great to have a different opinion and be relevant - but not at the expense of ignoring such clear facts as the last 50 years of modern history.

    By Blogger Chris McKinny, at Sat Jul 17, 01:03:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Dani, at Sun Jul 18, 07:34:00 PM  

  • Is this link [below] correctly pointing at the "Jim" that made this [2nd] "flaming" entry aimed at Chris McKinny and Todd?

    http://www.theology.edu/westbio.htm

    Can someone verify? Jim? Is that you? Just curious. ;>)

    Not sure where all the venom is coming from. Jim's profile says he's a "Pastor" and a seminary "Professor"? Wow. Seems a little harsh, "brother", these words assaulting Chris, Todd and "Christian Zionists" ... all these flaming words, "like so many bloggers". It's easy to be caustic on a blog, no? So, what's the deal?

    If you are in fact the JIM WEST from QUARTZ HILL ... then ...

    Where does Quartz Hill Seminary fall on the repeated scriptural references stating that the GOD of our Bibles promised/gave the land to the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob forever? Apparently most religious Jews have thought this was the case for centuries, wherever they were across the globe.

    Did they make it up?

    I mean ... this issue is by no means a late 19th or 20th century invention. Why is there even archaeology being done in Israel/Palestine/Jordan if it is all a "faint historical claim"? How is it that archaeologists USE the Bible as a reference for finding sites in the first place, let alone interpreting them?

    Is there a place where your disagreeable "views" are published online? Jim? ... since your blog link is dead? Would love to know what all the fuss is about.

    What say ye?

    By Blogger Dani, at Sun Jul 18, 07:42:00 PM  

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